It was a beautiful weekend at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose, CA. I attended the CARL Conference to gather information about how we can better serve academic libraries. What I left with was valuable information to help us meet the needs of our library customers and some new friends.
There were no vendor booths at the conference- I attended because of my commitment to learning about what’s important to academic libraries by speaking and listening to librarians themselves. I talked with librarians about changes in the landscape, trends, and best practices. It’s great to read about these things on the web, but sometimes it’s best to cut straight to the source.
I learned about innovative reference models in a great session headed by The California Academic Reference Librarians Discussion Interest Group South. The trend seems to be for more peer-to-peer engagement with a librarian stepping in once a student library worker can no longer take the transaction any further. Students are already crowdsourcing their questions, and librarians are in-tune with how students are looking to each other for answers. I heard this phrase many times: “Let’s help students help each other”. Libraries are enhancing their student library worker training to make the peer-to-peer model a success.
A central theme of the conference is that librarians are having trouble connecting with students. One frequently cited solution is for libraries to enhance the types of technologies they use to increase student engagement. My favorite quote from the conference was from Doug Worsham, Teaching and Learning Services Coordinator at UCLA: “Imagine spaces and services designed to equip undergraduate students with the research tools and strategies they need to succeed in the digital age.”
However, there was a technology piece missing at the conference- why didn’t anyone talk about a mobile app as a means of connecting? It seems the libraries have the face-to-face interaction down, but the virtual, off-campus interaction was lacking in discussion. I would have loved to hear a session address how librarians are connecting with on-the-go students. No, students are not going to read the letter you sent them via snail mail. Students use mobile devices day-in and day-out, and libraries should be connecting with students on the devices they already use to help them utilize their devices as research tools.
Additionally, there are challenges with an increasingly diverse and multilingual student body, and connecting with first generation college students. We have found that a mobile app helps orient students with library services they might otherwise feel intimidated to discover. Further, Boopsie provides multilingual functionality, which may help orient students as well.
I am thankful I had the opportunity to attend the CARL 2014 Conference- I highly recommend attending this event and other similar conferences. It was an informative and collaborative environment where everyone had their students’ best interests at heart. I look forward to continuing the conversation about the technology landscape at academic libraries, and how libraries are leveraging technology to engage students.